While I finished, this just wasn’t nearly as fun as the last two Scott Adams games, I believe because of the a.) extreme linearity and b.) difficulty caused more by an obstinate interface rather than deep thinking.
Here’s the outline of what happened (complete spoilers follow):
1.) I got by the room from my last post by breaking the window. I had tried breaking the window before (at which point the game prompts you to ask what you are using and you type something like WITH PAIL) but the several items I tried gave me a message that read like an error (are you sure you are carrying it?) which made me think the parser wasn’t programmed to handle the interaction so I stopped thinking about it.
I ended up having to find out from a walkthrough that the recorder from the very beginning of the game is sufficient to smash the window. In retrospect this is logically the most heavy item (excepting the body of the saboteur, which I also previously tried with no success) and this might have been a decent puzzle and the response for non-working objects been more along the lines of “that’s too light to cause a dent” to hint that there was something there.
2.) In any case, after breaking the window, the camera turned on and I needed to show off my ID filched from the saboteur … to keep the bomb from going off? Still not sure what’s going on with the plot here. It’s sort of like everything is booby trapped, but there’s still the timed bomb element (if you wait too many turns everything will explode on its own), so why did the saboteur just not set the timer low and be done with it? Why bother with the traps?
3.) From below the window I got a blue key, which I was able to take back to the four-button room and use to “unlock” a new button. Random button mashing eventually led to a maintenance ID, letting me reach a new room.
4.) The new room had a mop with a yarn head. Picking up the mop led to the sound of something inside, where SHAKE MOP was required to shake it loose (another key). I’ll have to chalk this one up to semi-clever because if you look at the saboteur’s inventory from my last post, you’ll notice that they had a piece of yarn, indicating they were previously there.
5.) Toting the new key back to the four buttons and an even more extended button mashing sequence led to a security pass.
6.) The security pass led to a control room. The bomb was below in a room filled with radiation, although a radiation suit was nearby. I could cut the wire to the bomb (seemingly with no effect on the bomb other than letting me pick it up) but I couldn’t otherwise defuse it. However, using that same plastic pail I could find no use of before, I scooped up some heavy water, took the bomb to a safe-for-water-pouring location, then achieved victory by pouring the water on the bomb.
I’m not sure if the science here is “Indiana Jones hides in a fridge to avoid a nuclear blast” level dodgy, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how bomb defusing works. I’d be happy to hear corrections in the comments, though.
There is one I’ll have to credit Secret Mission for (compared to everything up to this year), and that’s the presence of a plot. This includes both explicit plot (with the opening recording and the scripted death of the saboteur) and implicit plot (with the missing envelope and the piece of yarn). I’ve seen it most often in mysteries (where you have to piece together the details of a crime via the objects left behind) and it’s one of the things unique to interactivity, with the world environment leveraged to allow the player to make discoveries.